Fashion Industries Guild Honors HeartSoul Partners

Lars Viklund and Kevin Talbot launched their juniorswear label, HeartSoul, in 1996 under parent company Big Strike Inc. That same year, Jodi Sundburg joined them as a partner.

Now, all three principals are being honored at this year’s “People of the Year” celebration, hosted by the Fashion Industries Guild at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The Oct. 1 fund-raiser will be held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel and will include a dinner and after-party. Proceeds will go toward the Fashion Industries Guild Pediatric Acute Care Unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Since starting their first label, the partners have added more brands, which include juniors labels Soulmates, Tracy Evans, Star City and Free 2 Luv and misses brands Halo and First Option.

They are sold to major department stores—including Kohl’s, JCPenney, Sears and Dillard’s—as well as to specialty chains such as It’s Fashion and Windsor.

This year, Los Angeles private-equity company The Gores Group made an unspecified investment in Big Strike with the goal of adding new divisions and growing the company through mergers and acquisitions, Viklund said.

The three started off as friends who shared similar philosophies on the apparel industry, said Viklund, who answered several questions presented by Deidre Crawford, manufacturing editor of the California Apparel News, about the charity.

How did you become involved with the Fashion Industries Guild of Cedars-Sinai?

Cedars-Sinai holds a special place in my heart, as my daughter Laila was born there. By the way, Laila [9 years old] donated $133 to Cedars-Sinai this year! My family and I had a fantastic experience at Cedars-Sinai.

Many of my friends have had their children treated at the NICU [neonatal intensive-care unit] at Cedars-Sinai and speak so highly about the treatment they received while there.

Big Strike has been a supporter of the Fashion Industries Guild for more than 10 years, and [we] feel honored and humbled to be a part of this great organization. It was my goal this year to get some of the younger people in the apparel business involved in our organization.

How familiar are you with the work the Fashion Industries Guild does for Cedars-Sinai?

Honestly, we weren’t intimately familiar until this year. We had the opportunity to tour the facilities with Dr. Charles F. Simmons Jr., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Neonatology, and we were overwhelmed by all of the great projects that the Fashion Industries Guild has sponsored—from the Pediatric Acute Care Unit to the Neonatal Intensive Care Wing.

We were really impressed with the Ruth Bregman/Fashion Industries Guild Children’s Health Clinic. It provides free and discounted healthcare to about 4,000 low-income and high-risk children and their families.

The staff at Cedars-Sinai, from the nurses to the doctors, is so grateful for the Fashion Industries Guild. The staff at Cedars-Sinai is so dedicated. The NICU wing really touched our hearts. It is an incredible state-of-the-art facility designed to address the needs of critically ill babies, premature newborns and infants requiring close observation. This unit is equipped with the latest technology and is able to provide the highest level of care with the most modern treatment modalities.

What will the money raised at the gala be used for?

The current project is “The Fashion Industries Guild Endowed Fellowship in Pediatric Neuromuscular Diseases.” This fellowship will directly advance the Department of Pediatrics’ partnership with the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute in their joint quest to investigate and eventually develop new treatment protocols for a range of devastating neurological diseases affecting children, including, but not limited to, spinal muscular atrophy, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. By strengthening our ability to fight these illnesses, the fellowship will help children and their families by improving outcomes and offering hope for a healthy and productive future.

Is charitable activity part of the company culture?

We try to lead by example, and it has been great to see all of our employees so eager to participate this year. Many employees were able to tour Cedars-Sinai this year and are really excited to be able to help raise money and make a difference.

Do you support other charities?

Yes, we support the City of Hope, the National Jewish Health Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and others